Samsung Gear 360 (2017) review

This second-gen 360-degree camera is a very small step forward

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Our Verdict

The 2017 edition of Samsung’s Gear 360 is easy and fun to use, especially if you haven’t dipped into 360-degree video before. At $229, it’s definitely one of the best values on the market, too. But be warned, the video quality can be iffy, and opting for iOS compatibility over working with non-Samsung Android phones is a puzzling move.

For

  • Fun, capable software
  • Good price
  • Works with iOS
  • Slick, ergonomic design

Against

  • Disappointing video quality
  • Slight downgrade in specs over 2016 model
  • Limited Android compatibility

The Samsung Gear 360 is just a video camera. But thanks to its dual-camera setup, it doesn’t just record the world, it records your world with you included in on the fun. 

In that sense, the new Samsung Gear 360 for 2017 shares the same goal as the first iteration: make shooting 360-degree video content easy and relatively affordable. However, it goes about its mission in a much sleeker fashion, ditching the bulbous heft of last year’s model and opting for a more portable build that’s arguably easier and more fun to use. 

Samsung has also slashed at its price, reducing it down from the $369 cost of the original down to a much more palatable $229 ( £219, AU$399) at launch.

However, not all of the changes are positive ones. For instance, the aperture and megapixel values on each of the two 180-degree lenses are a step back from what we found in last year’s version. Also, the battery capacity has taken a bit of a hit in the journey to slimming down its form factor and is now non-removable.

And although it’s billed as a 4K camera, you’ll want to lower your expectations before you dive right in. The pixel value of the 360-degree footage may give it 4K numbers, but each part of the video looks almost sub-HD at times.

But given its lower price tag, ease of use, the added iOS compatibility and super fun software, Samsung’s new VR-ready camera is an easy sell, but not worth it if this isn’t your first 360-degree camera. 

Features

  • "4K" 360-degree video capture at 24FPS / 1080p at 60FPS
  • Captures 8.4MP still and time-lapse footage at 10FPS
  • Use can switch between dual and single camera recording

High-speed sports camera, this is not. But Samsung looks to the Gear 360 to steal away some of GoPro’s pie with a stellar companion mobile app and robust desktop application bundled in.

It’s a surprise to nobody that the main appeal of this camera is that it can shoot video in a full, world-encompassing 360-degrees. The pocket-size construct of Samsung’s Gear 360 for 2017 makes it a more ideal option than last year’s model for those on the go, whether you’re capturing some precious vacation memories or just showing off your neighborhood to the world via Facebook Live.

But why record in 360-degrees, you ask? Well, for a variety of reasons. It’s cool. Your current camera probably can’t do it. Plus (and most importantly) these clips are viewable inside of VR headset, whether it be the Samsung Gear VR, the Google Daydream View, or any other major headset. Someone else can step into your shoes and see what your world looks like. Enough said. 

In dual-lens mode, the Gear 360 can record video at a resolution advertised as 4K in 24 frames per second (fps), 2K (QHD) at 30fps and above 1080p in 60fps. 

If you’ve never seen this sort of thing in action, it seems pretty magical. Samsung’s recording algorithm stitches together the feed from the two lenses to make it look as seamless as possible. However, we noticed that the more action-packed the footage is, the more that tearing can be seen at the seams.

Additionally, users can record with a single lens, which tops out at 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second. This mode is perfect for when you want to capture some video, but you want to keep your bad hair day out of the picture.

Video isn’t the Gear 360’s only forte. It can also take still photos and time-lapse footage as well. While reduced from 15MP, as we saw in the original Gear 360, to 8.4MP, the photographs that this camera can churn out are quite good, rivaled in quality by the best smartphones around that have awesome cameras. 

However, taking quick snaps with the Gear 360 is a hassle by comparison since you can’t easily preview your photos to make sure you got the perfect shot.